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2007, all wrapped up

December 23, 2007|Diane Haithman | Times Staff Writer

If 2007 was any indication, one thing's clear about 2008: Arts journalists will go slowly insane trying to coin new words for the effect that 26-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, whiz kid from Venezuela, will have on the classical music scene. Dudamelization? Dudaramification? Dudamorphosis? By the time Dudamel, successor to Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, takes the baton in 2009, expect a global Dudameltdown. More later on the man who music-minded bloggers have simply dubbed "The Dude" or "El Dude." His appointment is just one of many major developments in the arts in 2007 in greater Los Angeles and beyond. Here are some recaps and updates on some of the big stories of 2007:

Culture's new czar

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa named Olga Garay, formerly a New York producer and arts consultant, to head the city's Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2008, Garay will oversee the development of the city's first "cultural master plan" since 1991. Then, the controversial plan masterminded by former culture chief Adolfo V. Nodal demanded the equitable distribution of arts funds among L.A.'s diverse ethnic groups. Now, the heady goal is to position L.A. as an international arts center.

Getty antiquities

In August, the J. Paul Getty Trust agreed to return 40 long-contested ancient artworks to Italy, ending a cultural and legal battle that had plagued the institution for decades. Among the important works leaving Malibu's Getty Villa: the Getty's signature statue of Aphrodite. While the bulk of these objects were taken off display in the fall, visitors to Malibu's Getty Villa will be able to see the Aphrodite until December 2010.

A collection grows

While the Getty suffers depletion of its ancient art treasures, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has seen the transformation of its holdings of modern art with a major gift from L.A. art collectors Janice and Henri Lazarof, who have given the institution 130 works by major artists, including 20 works by Pablo Picasso, seven sculptures and a painting by Alberto Giacometti and two versions of Constantin Brancusi's signature bronze, "Bird in Space." While the museum would not disclose the value of the artworks, sales of similar pieces suggest the collection is worth more than $100 million.

Bowers' ticket high

The cost of culture went up in Santa Ana when the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art raised its general admission price to $17 on weekdays and $19 on weekends, the highest general admission fee on the West Coast and just behind New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (both $20).

Adam and Eve

The Norton Simon held on to two of the jewels of its collection, at least for now, when a Los Angeles federal judge dismissed a case that jeopardized its ownership of a pair of paintings of Adam and Eve, nearly 500 years old, by German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder. The action halted dueling lawsuits filed by the museum and Marei von Saher of Connecticut, the heir of a Jewish art dealer who lost the artworks to the Nazis in World War II. But the battle isn't over. Von Saher has filed an appeal, likely to be heard in the coming year.

Murakami boutique

If you wanted to spend even more than that Bowers ticket cost, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles offered a fully operational Louis Vuitton boutique as part of a retrospective of the work of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. While art world purists may have been offended, audiences embraced the show and the high-end leather goods featuring Murakami designs, setting attendance records at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary space and dropping a bundle on handbags that cost upward of $900.

'America Tropical'

After decades of false starts, 17 months ago Mayor Villaraigosa and the J. Paul Getty Trust announced they had made a $7.8-million deal to finally bring to fruition the restoration to public view of the famous 1932 mural by Mexican master David Alfaro Siqueiros, painted on an Olvera Street building. The announced deadline -- 18 months -- means January 2008, at which time we'll know whether or not the project will be another success or another failure for the city, the mayor and the philanthropy.

Monetizing holdings

Selling works of art long in the public sphere to raise funds (often for purposes other than art) grew to near-epidemic proportions as the art market continued to boom. Thomas Jefferson University, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Maier Museum of Art, Fisk University, the Rose Art Museum -- these and others became embroiled in controversies, and sometimes lawsuits -- over plans to sell off masterpieces.

China emerging

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